Friday, September 15, 2006

Wilmington Getting Warmer

The News Journal today reports that Wilmington is getting warmer:
After rising slowly for three decades, the average temperature in Wilmington spiked in the first half of the year, a sign global warming is hitting home, a nonprofit research group said Thursday.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group's report found that the January to June average temperature of 51.6 degrees this year was 2.5 degrees warmer than the average for those six months from 1971 to 2000.
Six months of above average temperatures in one city does not constitute convincing evidence of global warming, as the state's climatologist pointed out:
Delaware's state climatologist David R. Legates, reviewed the state's own temperature data for Wilmington and found nothing alarming.
"There is no trend at all for Wilmington," Legates said, adding that since 1946, there has been a slight warming that is not necessarily connected to global warming.
I would guess that no scientist would argue for a connection between temperatures in Wilmington and global climate trends. So I checked U.S. PIRG's Website to see if the research dug a little deeper:
To examine how these recent temperature patterns compare with temperatures over the last 30 years, U.S. PIRG analyzed government temperature data from 255 major weather stations in all 50 states and Washington , D.C. for the years 2000-2005 and the first six months of 2006. This recent data was compared to “normal” temperatures for the three decades spanning 1971-2000. Key findings include:
• Nationally, between 2000 and 2005, the average temperature was above normal at 95% of the locations, indicating widespread warming. In addition, nights are getting warmer; the average minimum (nighttime low) temperature was above normal at 92% of the locations examined.
Playing up the local angle is a nice hook to generate news stories around the country. But the danger Delaware may face from global warming is not higher temperature but higher sea levels:
The impact from rising temperatures may be dramatic in a coastal state like Delaware, said John Byrne, director of the University of Delaware's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy.
Weather will likely be more extreme and when it is wet, there will be floods. When it is dry, there will be drought, he said.
As sea levels rise, salt water will move further north into the Delaware River and threaten drinking water supplies and critical fish and animal habitats, he said.
These effects could be felt, even if we avoid the nightmare scenario of city neighborhoods underwater, pictured in a previous post here. The image of Wilmington is from a hack of Google Maps by blogger Alex Tingle.

2 Comments:

Blogger catbird said...

Would an increase in sprawl (shopping centers, developments, blacktop roads and parking lots) and decrease in wooded areas account for some of the higher local temperatures? I often wonder how much heat islands factor into the global warming equation, or if they're even considered at all.

2:19 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger TommyWonk said...

I'm convinced that the answer to your question is yes; paving more and more of our planet is a contributing factor to global warming.

As I noted here on September 4, Sacramento's electric utility plants street trees for free, based on the calculation that planting trees counteracts the heat island effect you mentioned, and reducing demand for electricity.

9:07 PM, September 17, 2006  

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